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Grandparent caregivers receive “dreadful” treatment

Grandparent caregivers receive “dreadful” treatment by Work and Income

An in-depth analysis of more than 800 grandparent care families desperately seeking support needed to look after their grandchildren has revealed concerns about our welfare systems in New Zealand. Kate Bundle, Chief Executive of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust, says that their large research had identified “massive problems” with their clients accessing the Unsupported Child Benefit (UCB).

The figures speak for themselves, she notes. “Only fifteen percent are told they are entitled to the UCB on first approach, while many others are erroneously told they are not entitled to any support”. Bundle notes that many grandparents wait “years” for assistance. “Last year one woman bringing up five grandchildren received years of arrears in a lump sum and an apology, although she still only has about half the amount she was actually entitled to and she is not alone. We have many grandparents turning to us for help to get financial support for the children in their care, when they should have received it years ago”.

Grandparents are shocked at the state of Work and Income offices, where they are made to stand or sit in line for ages, declare their business in front of “everyone”, have their papers lost, receive conflicting advice, explain their business over and over and often get given incorrect information. Bundle says that “the majority find the quality of the service dreadful. Some are even fearful of Work and Income staff and the whole experience and some even give up rather than put themselves through the stressful rigmarole.”

Even worse than the office processes are the attitudes frequently found in these offices. “Many grandparents comment on the rude attitudes of staff. There is little respect for clients and many staff act as if ‘it is their own money’, providing support only grudgingly if at all,” says Bundle

“These grandparents are caring for some of our most vulnerable and traumatised children who would be in state care if it wasn’t for their grandparents taking them on. Just like children in care, they need help and financial support and that’s all they’re asking for. Support for the children, not for themselves. Is it too much to ask that they be treated with respect and advised from the get-go as to the supports available if they meet the criteria, rather than being punished and denied supports by staff who very often aren’t even applying the law correctly?” asks Bundle.

“Grandparents seeking income support reveal “Daniel Blake”-like experiences”, says GRG Researcher, Dr Liz Gordon of the participants in the study. The award-winning British movie ‘I, Daniel Blake’, told the fictitious story of one man seeking to get income support after a heart attack. “Director Ken Loach noted that “hundreds of thousands of people – the vulnerable and the poorest people – are treated by this government with a callousness and brutality that is disgraceful” and that is what it is like for many grandparents seeking support for the children,” says Gordon.

In the recent paper authored by Gordon and published in the journal Kotuitui, which is part of a series being published on the 2016 Grandparents and Whanau Caregiver research project, the data led to three conclusions. First, that the grandparents are in an excellent position, as older persons often with years of work experience, to critique the practices they find in Work and Income offices. Second, that grandparents seeking support for bringing up their grandchildren should take advocates (or ‘gradvocates’) with them to ensure they receive their entitlements. Finally, that the service standards published by Work and Income are continually breached, not displayed in offices and are not subject to a complaints procedure, thus have no teeth at all.

A summary of key findings is included below. The full report is available at this link:
Experiences of grandparents raising grandchildren in getting income support from work and income offices in New Zealand


ENDS

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